St. James Hall, which is Presbyterian (reformed Protestantism), was built in 1885. The church next door was built five years later, in 1900. Both are good examples of early roughcast church building, but the hall is a Gothic style structure while the church is said to be neoclassical Edwardian. Both the structures were designed by Robert Watt and John Mitchell, two notable architects in the early 1900s, and they are currently Category B listed heritage buildings. The church closed sometime between 2012 and 2013, after Auckland Council deemed it too dangerous to enter. After also being inspected in 2016, the hall has now been forced to close its doors. One of the roof trusses has shown signs of movement and several significant pieces of timber around the unreinforced concrete/masonry walls are reportedly rotten. According to the heritage architect that conducted the assessment on the building, this raises the potential of ‘catastrophic failure of the walls’. It has been reported that the congregation wish to remain at St. James Hall; however, the cost of the repairs and additional strengthening work are way beyond what they can afford. They say the parish is too small to raise the necessary funds.
Our Version of Events
After driving around half of Auckland looking for a place to pull over and sleep, we eventually found ourselves outside St. James Church and Hall. At the time, bearing in mind it was dark, we were pretty sure the church was abandoned, but we couldn’t tell if the hall next door was. So, before hitting the hay, we had a quick poke around both sites to do a spot of investigating. As it turned out, both buildings were in fact abandoned, with boards covering all the essential areas. Following that discovery, then, we decided to sleep in the car right outside, so we could wake up to a spot of exploring right away before breakfast.
Inside the car, it was as uncomfortable, as it always is. There were three of us, so that made putting the seats back slightly awkward – especially with someone who was baked sprawled across the back seats – and we hadn’t washed for days. The smell was interesting, as was the shit that’d accumulated in the car. All we could do, to put all of that out of our minds, was dream about how epic the explore we were about to do in the morning was going to be.
We woke early, eager to get out of the car and enter a building that would, by comparison, be much cleaner and airier than our current environment. So, we grabbed the gear and headed back over to the church hall. We did that building first as it looked as though it was going to be the more interesting of the two. Thanks to our recce the previous evening, we had a good idea about how we might access the place.
Once inside, we quickly realised that the old hall had been redeveloped into a church. At first, we weren’t sure if it was actually abandoned either, since there were still instruments set up and various pieces of paperwork with recent dates on them. We did a bit of on the spot digging, though, and discovered that the hall had been deemed too dangerous to enter, by order of the council. It appeared, then, that the local parish were still using the premises right up until the last minute. Their last activity in the place, by our assessment, seemed to have been January 2017. Anyway, even in the knowledge that the hall was now abandoned, we still felt as though the vicar was about to walk in at any moment to begin Sunday service.
After having a good look around the former hall, we made our way over to the church. Unfortunately, this building was much more fucked. The local goons have ensured it no longer has any windows left. As we stepped inside, the heavy stench of damp and decay made it clear that the elements have settled in nicely, along with hundreds of pigeons. Everywhere we looked there was a bird carcass. Nevertheless, we squelched on, across the waterlogged carpets and took a quick look around the place. All in all, there wasn’t a lot to see, but it was good to have seen the whole site as opposed to only half of it.
Explored with Nillskill.